It was nearly two decades ago that I became a spy for the Confederacy. I stole uniforms, botched battles, sabotaged the North in any way I could think of. And in doing so I gained a deep and abiding love for Mr. Lincoln and a fascination for the Civil War.
Yes, my 5th grade teacher had no idea what she was doing when she pulled me aside and asked me to play “Loretta Boyd, Southern Spy” in our unit on the Civil War. But I owe her more than the joy I got from seeing my classmates’ faces when I revealed to them that I was the one behind the missing uniforms. It was largely because of that experience that I grew to love American history and eventually chose American Studies as my major in college. My class on the Civil War was undoubtedly one of my favorites.
So it surprises no one more than myself that it has taken me seven years to pick up Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s been on my list for about that long, and if we hadn’t run across a copy (literally) as we were running down the street last spring, it might still be on the list. Thankfully, someone was kind enough to leave it out for a curious passerby, and thankfully I was that passerby. (Not-so-thankfully, it did not come from a smoke-free home.)
It is a thick book. Almost overwhelmingly thick. But it is also exceedingly interesting, beautifully told, and thoroughly researched. Researched to the point of immersion, so you can, at times, get inside the minds of some of the greatest figures in American history. (Ms. Goodwin is quite the storytelling master.) I find that by taking it in small bites, like, say 20 minutes every few hours that I have to sit and feed the baby, I am able to digest just enough of it to keep me hungry for more and looking forward to the next bite without being overwhelmed by the feast that still lies ahead.
I’m pretty engrossed in it. I spent a few minutes last Friday fuming to a friend about how General McClellan called Lincoln “the Gorilla” in letters to his wife, and moaning about how I know little Willie Lincoln is going to die and I’m not sure I can handle it. But more than anything I have fallen further in love with Mr. Lincoln – with his kindness and generosity, with his intelligence and humor, with his humility and confidence.
And I’m deeply sorry that I ever tried to sabotage his army. Or would be if doing so hadn’t led me to this fulfilling relationship with him and with history.